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References: CLtL p. 312-314


Edit History: V1, 5 Aug 1988, Sandra Loosemore

V2, 15 Sep 1988, Sandra Loosemore

V3, 7 Dec 1988, Masinter

Problem Description:

CLtL doesn't make clear whether defstructs that :INCLUDE another

structure type and do not specify a :PRINT-FUNCTION inherit the

:PRINT-FUNCTION of the parent structure type. While it is stated on

page 314 that #S syntax is used if a :PRINT-FUNCTION is not specified,

the language on page 313 indicates that all operations on the parent

type will also work on objects of the child type. Because of the

ambiguity, existing implementations have gone both ways, and users

cannot depend on either #S syntax or the parent type's :PRINT-FUNCTION

being used.


Clarify that defstruct types which :INCLUDE another type but do not

specify an explicit :PRINT-FUNCTION inherit the structure print

function from the :INCLUDE'd type. A print function that uses the

default #S syntax (overriding any print function for the parent type)

can be specified by providing the :PRINT-FUNCTION option without an


Supplying a :PRINT-FUNCTION in a DEFSTRUCT is equivalent

to defining an appropriate method on the PRINT-OBJECT generic



Users typically specify a print function for a structure type because

its slots will contain circular objects or large internal data

structures which are confusing when printed. Any structure type that

:INCLUDEs this type will also contain the same slots; it seems more

reasonable to inherit the parent's print function than to use the

default #S syntax.

Current Practice:

Lucid Common Lisp makes structures inherit print functions.

VaxLisp uses #S syntax unless an explicit :PRINT-FUNCTION

is specified.

Cost to implementors:

The changes to non-conforming implementations should be fairly minor

and localized.

Cost to users:

It can't be any worse than the status quo.


An area of ambiguity in the language will be removed.


Pitman and VanRoggen support this proposal.

The original version of the proposal did not provide for a way to

force #S syntax to be used. This functionality was added to the

current version because there seemed to be general agreement that it

would be useful. Other alternatives would be to name the function

that does what the #S printer does, or to provide a function that

returns the #S information as a list (as suggested by Waters) so users

can write their own.

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